MariaOrtega, 15, and her son, Miguel, decorate sugar cookies on Feb. 12 at a meetingfor teenage parents participating in the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers Program.In Tahlequah, Okla. (Photo by Christina Good Voice)
Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Schools offer new Head Start
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation and Tahlequah Public Schools are partnering to offer an Early Head Start class for children of teen parents attending Tahlequah High School. The class is set to begin this spring at THS.
The class will care for nearly 50 children between the ages of 6 weeks to 3 years. THS will provide the on-campus facility, while the tribe will provide staff and other necessities.
The facility will be located in the same building as the Tahlequah Central Academy, an alternative education program where many teen parents attend classes.
“Tahlequah Public Schools is excited to be partnering with the Cherokee Nation Head Start to expand their program to serve our students who are teen parents,” said TPS Assistant Superintendent Billie Jordan. “We have recognized the need for this program for years and have searched for ways to provide this service so that teen parents can attend school and at the same time learn hands-on parenting skills while their babies receive quality child care.”
Laura Baltazar, 19, said she’s excited the class is nearly open because it would give her peace of mind knowing her children, 3-year-old Elder and 7-month-old Eyzel, would be cared for.
“It’ll be easier because they’ll just be right there,” she said.
Bethany McDonald, who is with the Oklahoma Parents As Teachers at Central Academy, said the class would also allow parents to ease their minds about paying for daycare.
Baltazar said she pays $400 a month for daycare, but with the class she can start saving that money.
“This will help save a lot of money,” she said. “A lot of young moms, we want to come to school but we have our babies.”
McDonald, who works daily with the teen parents on parenting skills, said she sees the class as removing an obstacle to their learning.
“I see a great way for our (OPAT) program to partner with the Head Start,” she said. “I see it merging so well. We’re going to be able to have better access to our teen moms. They’re going to be right here.”
Some teen moms said the class would also help them be able to concentrate more on school if they know their babies are in good hands. Maria Ortega, 15, said she’ll be able to focus better once the Head Start opens because her 10-month-old son Miguel will down the hall.
“It’s going to be easier,” she said. “He’ll be closer to me.”
Principal Chief Chad Smith said the CN created the program to be a good partner in the community, to keep teenage parents in school to finish their educations and get the fathers of the children involved in the children’s lives.
“Through establishing this partnership with the school, we can help provide a way for the students to continue their education, which in turn will help the community,” he said.
Tribal and school officials agreed that students have a better chance of attending college or another form of post-secondary education upon graduation from high school.
Doing so will help the students better provide for their family later, Jordan said.
“There is so much research showing what an effective program it is anyway and how well those babies do in school,” she said. “If we want to talk about really overcoming poverty, Head Start is a great way.”
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Grand View School third grade students on Sept. 22 got to spend their “veggie bucks” to buy fruits and vegetables during a farmers market that was set up at the school.
Each student received $12 worth of “veggie bucks” to spend at the market because the school is one of five schools in the Cherokee Nation’s jurisdiction to receive grant money through the Centers for Disease Control’s Partners to Improve Community Health program.
“This is our ‘Farm to School’ program. It is funded by the Centers for Disease Control, given to Cherokee Nation…gave to Tahlequah’s Best Program who gave it to us,” Tahlequah Farmers Market President Marla Saeger said.
Saeger said the grant allowed the Tahlequah Farmers Market to visit five area schools so that students could buy produce and learn more about where food comes from. Those other schools were Woodall, Cherokee Elementary, Greenwood Elementary and Heritage Elementary.
“We have been funded again for the next two years and we will be expanding each year,” she added.
Students from other grades were also allowed to experience the market and purchase food with their own money.
Rashelle Vaughn, Grand View child nutrition coordinator, said the market was a great opportunity for all the children at Grand View.
“We want to teach kids where food comes from. Unfortunately, we live in a time period where we’re really losing that connection and kids don’t know where their food comes from. They think the supermarket is the end and they don’t know there’s farmers behind these things,” Vaughn said. “We are trying to get them to see the farmers market and open their mind to it and eyes because they don’t, a lot of them, don’t know it exists, and we’re trying to make them more aware and educate the kids on that about buying local and in our community.”
CN Public Health Educator Hillary Mead said the goal was to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables in children as well as develop the “Farm to School” program in Tahlequah.
“And increase the visibility of the farmers market and to increase their knowledge of participating in the market (in Tahlequah),” Mead said.
The Tahlequah Farmers Market is open from 8 a.m. to noon each Saturday at Norris Park. The market will run through October and will re-open in April.
“We’ve got corn. We’ve got every kind of vegetable. We’ve got eggs. We’ve got cheese. We’ve got crafts. We’ve got meat,” Saeger said.
On most Saturdays, she said there are anywhere from 10 to 15 booths set up during the market and on average 400-600 people visit the market each weekend. Vendors accept cash, credit, cards debit cards, food stamps and the senior nutrition program.
For more information, visit <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Tahlequah-Farmers-Market-130367113647973/timeline/" target="_blank">https://www.facebook.com/Tahlequah-Farmers-Market-130367113647973/timeline/</a> or <a href="http://www.tahlequahfarmersmarket.org" target="_blank">http://www.tahlequahfarmersmarket.org</a> or call 918-207-7671 or 918-931-0742.
BOULDER, Colo. – The Native American Rights Fund is seeking applicants for its 2016 Summer Law Clerkship program, which allows second-year law students to gain experience in a professional setting. The deadline for applications is Sept. 25.
The application for the 10- or 12-week program requires a cover letter addressed to Matt Campbell, resume’, legal writing sample, law school transcript, letter of recommendation and list of three references.
Clerkship positions are full-time and available in all three NARF locations of Anchorage, Alabama, Boulder and Washington, D.C.
Students who are selected to participate will earn $24 per hour.
The organization seeks students who will have completed their 2L year by summer 2016. Students must have taken Native American law coursework, have experience with research and are able to draft legal memoranda. The organization also prefers applicants with previous employment experience, Natural Resources coursework and familiarity with tribal communities.
NARF was founded in 1970 and is the oldest and largest nonprofit law firm dedicated to asserting and defending the rights of Indian tribes, organizations and individuals across the nation, according to the organization’s website.
To apply, submit applications to Chrissy Johnson Dieck at 1506 Broadway, Boulder, CO 80302. For more information, call 303-443-7776.
WASHINGTON – The National Indian Education Association recently named Cherokee Nation citizen Yvonne Deerinwater Hensley as its 2015 Classroom Teacher of the Year.
Henlsey is an English teacher at Edmond Memorial High School in Edmond, Oklahoma, and serves as a co-teacher for “Native American Expressions” with the Edmond Indian Education program.
She has served the Native community as a teacher for more than 32 years. Hensley has contributed to the Oklahoma Indian Education Teacher Resources, run by Oklahoma State University, and has taught with the Johnson-O’Malley summer program for 12 years.
She has been awarded the Distinguished Service Award for her years of service from the Edmond Public School District and was named the Oklahoma Council for Indian Education Teacher of the Year Award in January.
As part of the honor, she and four others will be celebrated at the NIEA awards luncheon Oct. 16 in Portland, Oregon, as part of the NIEA’s 46th annual convention and trade show.
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Garrett Million opened the front door to the Sequoyah High School cafeteria and was shocked by the many friends and family who stood and shouted “surprise” to welcome him to a going-away party on Aug. 22.
The Sequoyah High School graduate was set to leave Tahlequah on Aug. 27 for New York City to attend New York University on a scholarship.
“I was really pleased and overwhelmed by this many people showing up because a lot of them came from a long way. A couple of the girls came from Arkansas and some from out by Oklahoma City,” Georgia Million, Garrett’s mother, said.
She said she was pleased by the support he received and that it made her “beam with pride” at how much he is respected and supported by SHS students because it wasn’t always that way. He was picked on and bullied in grade school, and he didn’t have many friends, she said.
She said Sequoyah welcomed him and his classmates liked him from the start.
“He excelled. He graduated senior class president. It shows he is liked, and to see this response (to the going-away party) is really great, and the school opening their doors for him to have this here made me feel proud. I couldn’t be prouder as a mother because he’s come so far,” she said.
About 40 friends, family and teachers attended the party, hiding behind a wall near the front door to surprise Garrett as he walked through the door.
“I was completely surprised. I thought I was coming to a book sale, so when I saw a bunch of people jump up I was scared at first,” he said. “It was really a great surprise. I’m really happy people care this much to do something like this.”
He said the party made him emotional, but he’s glad to know he’ll have people at home supporting him as he earns a bachelor’s degree in theater. The 18-year-old said he looks forward to meeting new people and exploring New York City.
At the party, SHS drama teacher Amanda Ray said Garrett made a lot of friends and other students looked up to him. She said he took part in productions at the school and excelled academically.
The Tahlequah community also supported him, she said, as he was able to travel to New York City in January to audition for NYU after Tahlequah citizens raised money for his travel expenses.
“Garrett’s done a little bit of everything – academically, on stage, in the youth choir and he’s truly been involved and has made a great leader at the high school, and I really look for great things from him,” Principal Chief Bill John Baker said.
Garrett said after completing his degree at NYU, he hopes to work professionally as an actor or pursue a master’s degree in fine arts.
Marissa Mitchell, a classmate and friend who appeared in SHS drama productions with Garrett, said Garrett inspires her.
“He went to New York by himself, by himself, and went up there and auditioned for NYU, not only NYU but also Carnegie Mellon (School of Drama) and all sorts of performing arts schools. He figured it out all by himself, and I think it’s insanely impressive that he figured it all out on his own,” she said.
She said Garrett also impressed her when he kept getting denied by performing arts schools but didn’t let it deter him. A day after being denied by Oklahoma City University, Mitchell said Garrett called her to tell her NYU had accepted him.
“I was so excited for him. I knew something good was going to happen. I couldn’t be more proud of him,” Mitchell said. “I’m just going to miss him being here. He is my best friend.”
LOCUST GROVE, Okla. – To help continue her education after high school, Cherokee Nation citizen Megan Baker recently received the Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association John Marley Scholarship.
“As a Cherokee woman, continuing my education is important because I want to be an example to other women in my tribe,” Baker said. “I want to help them see that it is possible to get an education and give back to the Nation.”
Baker, who previously served on the CN Tribal Youth Council, is one of six who received the OIGA scholarship in May.
In 2008, the OIGA established the John Marley Scholarship Foundation to provide education opportunities for OIGA member employees and their family. The foundation provides scholarships for eligible individuals to attend accredited colleges, universities and trade schools in Oklahoma or other states.
The OIGA was established in 1986 where the common commitment and purpose is to advance the welfare of Indian peoples economically, socially and politically.
The foundation provides scholarships for OIGA member employees and members of their families who meet certain minimum requirements, who complete an application and who are selected by the Foundation’s board to receive a scholarship.
Baker, 18, said her father, who works at Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa brought the scholarship to her attention.
The John Marley Scholarship is a $2,000 award that can be applied to any part of college costs. Applicants must be enrolled in Career Tech, a community college or a four-year college or university, and any student is eligible.
Baker will be attending Oklahoma State University this fall and studying psychology.
“I plan on majoring in psychology and in the future hopefully either becoming a criminal psychologist or a criminal profiler,” she said. “I’ve just always been interested solving, sort of like, puzzles and I decided that it was something I would be interested in to try to help people who have been affected by a crime of some sort. Kind of just like a little bit of me wanting to save the world I guess. I’m just really interested in how people’s minds work.”
To be considered for the John Marley Scholarship, applicants had to submit their transcripts, a copy of their acceptance letter, two letters of recommendation, their fall class schedule, a completed application and a 1,000-word essay on the topic, “If you could have dinner with anyone- past or present- who would it be?”
Baker said she also received several community scholarships and received the CN Valedictorian-Salutatorian Scholarship and the tribe’s undergraduate scholarship.
VINITA, Okla. – Native students at Vinita Public Schools have someone in the school who understands and appreciates their cultures. Along with taking care of their records, Johnson-O’Malley Liaison Jennifer Henderson shares Cherokee history, language and culture with those students in an after-school program.
The Cherokee Nation citizen coordinates the program for students of all ages in which they do schoolwork using her teaching methods that includes Cherokee history, culture and language.
In 2014, she said a teacher informed her that students were not retaining multiplication, so Henderson created a lesson plan that included how Cherokees traded with Europeans. She included multiplication in the plan based on the how trading was done between Cherokees and Europeans, and the students retained their multiplication lessons better, she said.
Henderson said the students also learned communication skills and Cherokee history and language.
She has received help from the CN Co-Partners Program to learn how to teach Cherokee culture, history and language and has completed the program’s Cherokee Teacher Enrichment and Cherokee Teaching Language Methodology courses.
“It has been tremendous. If it hadn’t been for those programs I would have struggled,” she said.
Beginning her third year as the school’s JOM liaison, she said at first not many of the faculty knew what she wanted to do for the students. It’s her belief that she passes on the cultural knowledge that was given to her to her three children so it is not lost.
She said she’s glad more students have become interested in what she has to share. She had 10-15 students her first year and now has 60-80 students who attend her after-school class regularly.
“My numbers tell me that I must not be very boring or they’re just interested,” she said.
Also, because students go home and share what they’ve learned, more families are becoming interested in learning about their Native cultures, she said. Her students represent about 15 different tribes, with many of them coming from tribes concentrated in the northeastern part of the state near Craig County, in which Vinita is located.
She also takes her students on field trips to CN museums in Tahlequah and the Cherokee Heritage Center in Park Hill where students can see up close how Cherokee people lived in the 16th century in the Diligwa Village. This school year she hopes to take her students to the Spiro Mounds in LeFlore County where an ancient civilization once thrived.
“I can find things they are interested in and spark some interest. I can sit there and preach to them, but it’s better if I can physically show them...especially the village Diligwa. That’s such a remarkable thing for me to be able to talk about, the different ways that we lived and how the lifestyles were, and for them to actually go out there and see it, it kind of brings it all together for them, ” she said.
After she got to know her students better, she said she realized some of them regularly attended stomp dances with their families and were members of ceremonial grounds.
“They didn’t have anybody to talk to about what they did over the weekends. They’d say, ‘I stomped all weekend. I’m a little tired,’” she said. “I grew up at a (ceremonial) ground. You don’t really talk about it. You just follow your family.”
Other students danced at or attended powwows with their families.
“I got those kids (stomp dance and powwow students) together and talked about some different things, about what they knew and how they felt growing up in that type of culture. I noticed those kids had a really strong bond. Some of them didn’t even know each other until I asked them to meet,” she said.
She said she has called on traditional women and men from area ceremonial grounds to meet with students who attend stomp dances to interact with them and practice stomp dances.
In April, six of these students traveled to Washington, D.C., with the help Tribal Councilor Victoria Vazquez, to dance at the National Museum of the American Indian during “Cherokee Days.”
Also this summer, Henderson took students interested in the stomp dance to ceremonial grounds in the area including grounds used by Cherokee, Muscogee (Creek), Seneca and Shawnee people.
“It’s good for them to know that if you do leave the Cherokee Nation jurisdiction, and you’re around other people, you still have something in common even if you are from a different tribe,” she said. “I’m just doing my job, and this is what I like, so it’s hard for me to see that’s anything special.”